It was the photo that sent shivers rippling through social media: John Travolta awkwardly holding Scarlett Johansson on the red carpet and planting a very John Travolta-y kiss on her cheek. She did not seem to be enjoying herself. Obviously, this was a case of a camera capturing a frozen moment that probably wasn’t as frought as it looked, but it remained one of the lasting images from an Oscars ceremony with very few of them. But the photo ended up being such a big deal that Johansson released a statement to the Associated Press, defending Travolta:
“The image that is circulating is an unfortunate still-frame from a live-action encounter that was very sweet and totally welcome. That still photo does not reflect what preceded and followed if you see the moment live. Yet another way we are misguided, misinformed and sensationalized by the 24-hour news cycle. I haven’t seen John in some years and it is always a pleasure to be greeted by him.”
Johansson also shot directly back against the “John Travolta is creepy” narrative that has engulfed her Love Song for Bobby Long co-star as of late, calling him a “class act” and saying ”“there is nothing strange, creepy or inappropriate about John Travolta.”
When something like this happens, we always wonder if the people involved have seen it, and what they think about it. Memes and virality are a relatively new aspect of the celebrity industrial complex that stars are still learning to cope with. Do they take them seriously? Dismiss them like the digital detritus they are? Or just completely ignore them? When Serious Person Angelina Jolie’s leg went viral at the 2012 Oscars, she was forced to address it during an interview with The Huffington Post, saying “I don’t watch those TV shows and if I go online and see something about myself, I don’t click on it. And the people I surround myself with don’t really talk about that kind of stuff. I heard something, but I didn’t pay any attention.”
Johnasson obviously did pay attention, maybe because she saw her friend was unfairly being attacked and felt obliged to come to his defense.